Carroll William Westfall
Carroll William Westfall retired from the University of Notre Dame in 2015 where he taught architectural history and theory since 1998, having earlier taught at Amherst College, the University of Illinois in Chicago, and between 1982 and 1998 at the University of Virginia.
He completed his PhD at Columbia University after his BA from the University of California and MA from the University of Manchester. He has published numerous articles on topics from antiquity to the present day and four books, most recently Architectural Type and Character: A Practical Guide to a History of Architecture coauthored with Samir Younés (Routledge, 2022). His central focus is on the history of the city and the reciprocity between the political life and the urban and architectural elements that serve the common good. He resides in Richmond, Virginia.
Histories of architecture present past buildings as deficient preludes to Modernism’s successes. This misstates the buildings’ most important role, which is to become architecture offering the beautiful as the counterpart to its service to the common good, roles that only traditional buildings can fulfill.
Architectural History, the Common Good, and the Beautiful
The current history of architecture undermines architecture’s essential role in serving the common good and offering beauty. Here I will discuss this history’s deficiencies, and in my next opinion piece I will offer an alternative to it.
Progressivism and Progress
Ninety years ago European Modernism was introduced to America by a landmark exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. It challenged traditional architecture and soon replaced it with Modernism, an architecture that betrays architecture’s responsibility to contribute to the common good.
Buildings in our Form and Figure
Individuals flourish when they contribute to the civil order that seeks a common good, and traditional and classical architecture is necessary to make an urbanism that serves such a civil order. It is, however, being undermined by an architectural profession that has no interest in the common good or its counterpart, the beautiful.
Traditional Architecture and Architecture's Historians
Traditional architecture uses imitation and invention to provide beauty as a complement to the general, public welfare, but the current history of architecture undermines that service.
Beauty, Traditional Architecture, and Unity
President Trump set out an Executive Order that calls for a Commission to suggest guidelines for restoring the beauty of traditional classicism in new federal buildings. A nonpartisan issue, President Biden should execute it immediately.
Traditional Classical Architecture is the Right Architecture for America
Opinion On Executive Order for the Classical Style in Federal Buildings
Tradition in the Vernacular and the Classical
Tradition has always guided both vernacular and classical buildings, but now, with architects avoiding drawing on tradition, the present-day vernacular of the builders no longer benefits from innovations within the classical and architects ignore the vernacular’s innovations, with both suffering.
New Construction in a Historic Neighborhood in Richmond, VA
Carroll William Westfall investigates new modern construction in a historic neighborhood.
Preservation and Urbanism: The Problem with Labeling a Building "Of its Time."
Carroll William Westfall discusses the development of preservation and urbanism, illustrating the problem with labeling a building "of its time."
The Value of Tradition in Urbanism
Urbanism is what we build to serve our needs and desires in families and neighborhoods and on up in scale to cities, states and nations. It is the grandest, most complicated, complex, and extensive thing we build, but we underestimate its role in our lives, and it is tradition that makes urbanism valuable for us.